As Fariborz Youssefirad faced the final days of his life in December 2014, he asked his wife to do anything she could to help others avoid his fate by preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.
The disease is a chronic condition that affects the way the human body metabolizes sugar, can cause severe complications such as kidney failure and lead to death, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
Youssefirad suffered from kidney failure and underwent surgeries to prevent the amputation of his leg. In early December 2014, he was released from a hospital to return home under hospice care.
As Youssefirad’s wife, Marie, recalled in their Port Townsend home, “He said, ‘I have suffered so much, so if there is something you can do, would you please do something so that nobody else has to go through what I’ve been through?’ I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s think about it.’”
The two spent the next few days brainstorming, Marie Youssefirad said, and they decided to provide education to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
“It wasn’t too long after that he passed away,” she said. “That was really hard. In a way it was good, and in a way it was difficult. His suffering was done, and he really suffered. I have been through the whole gamut. I know because I have this experience of really how devastating it can be, not only just to lose the person.”
Fariborz Youssefirad, who emigrated from Iran in the 1970s, died on Dec. 21, 2014. He was 58 and had battled complications for at least four years.
“It is not a loss if I can keep my promise to make a difference,” Marie Youssefirad said determinedly. “Probably the hardest thing for me to think of is if I can’t keep my promise to my husband.”
Memorial Health Scholarship
Driven to honor the memory of her late husband and to change the future of others at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, Marie Youssefirad launched the Fariborz Youssefirad Memorial Health Scholarship.
“I see this as a national program,” she said. “That is my vision. I want it to be a national program. But I can’t do it alone. I really need community support. I need people to open their wallets and open their hearts.”
The 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization currently has three programs in the works to support its mission, including K-12 educational seminars for Washington state students to empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices; scholarship opportunities for well-qualified high school seniors and college students; and the creation of a new special-issue Washington state license plate to fund college scholarships.
The type 2 diabetes license plate program is unfolding now, with the final design up to the public to choose. The potential designs have been submitted by area children, and the winner will be chosen by vote.
Viewings of the license plates are set for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 22 and Jan. 5 at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St. in Port Townsend. All Washington residents may vote.
“I need 3,500 people to sign up,” Marie Youssefirad said. “The artwork will be chosen by the end of January. There is a $6,300 fee for the application (for a special license plate). Potentially from just those 3,500 applicants, it will generate about $98,000. All of that will go to funding scholarships.”
Marie Youssefirad currently is working with Peninsula College and other colleges to hash out how students can apply for scholarships, which can range up to about $5,000.
Type 2 diabetes
The body of those with type 2 diabetes either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal glucose level, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
More common in adults, type 2 diabetes increasingly affects children as childhood obesity increases. There’s no cure.
The cause of type 2 diabetes currently is not known, although genetic and environmental factors such as excess weight and inactivity seem to be contributing factors, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The nonprofit aims to inspire kids to make healthy lifestyle choices with the idea of preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes, Marie Youssefirad said.
“It is encouraging kids,” she said. “It is all with love. Let’s excite people and say you don’t have to go down this road. You don’t have to have my experience with my husband.”
For more information, visit fymhs.org.